You go your whole life — your whole long life — knowing that the world operates in a certain way. You’ve definitely figured out a few things. Maybe you still don’t know how your ex-spouse’s mind works or even how to reset the car radio at “Spring Back/Fall Down” or whatever. Still, you know a thing or two about a thing or two. Or so you think.

Then, as always happens, someone comes along and messes up everything.

Take this morning for instance. Until then I knew with “absolute certainty” that extraterrestrials had never visited the Earth, that there were no such things as ghosts, Sasquatch, or the Loch Ness Monster. I knew that those crop circles  over in Great Britain had been made by neighborhood pranksters. I also knew that were no real UFOs and most assuredly that there was really no such thing as a political pollster!

I’d voted in more than a hundred national, state and local elections over the years and not once in any of these contests had any pollster ever called to “poll me “ with a very carefully worded question such as  “…are you planning to vote for good ole Smitty or are you gonna vote for that fat bastard Ivan Hammerandsickle?” Not only had no pollster ever called me, they’d never called anyone that I knew of, had heard of, or had even read about. They’d never left a message on my (or anyone else’s) voice mail saying, “Sorry, we missed you.” There were no fingerprints, no footprints, no smoking gun from Gallup, Zogby, or any of ’em.

By now, I figured that when TV news people reported on some unbelievable story and quipped that “…you just can’t make up this kind of stuff”…well, just like professional wrestling,  yes you could. This was obviously true when news anchors gave the results of some newly released political poll saying what “all Americans believed” on some issue or politician. I had never seen one, heard of one and based upon my own, in depth research, neither had any other living American. Poll results shown on the nightly news were…well, made up…maybe with the use of a dart board or a deck or cards.

Nope, those ABC-CNN pollster people had never called me.  No one had ever seen a bumper sticker that said, “My Kid Is An Honor Student At St. Kennedy’s Catholic School And, By The Way, I Was Polled Last Night.” Never, in the history of mankind had anyone ever gone to work in the morning, stood around the water cooler all dreamy eyed and said, “Man, did I ever get polled last night. My life has changed forever.” There was just no evidence that pollsters existed.

So you can imagine both my surprise and dismay, when an attractive young woman, dressed in one of those London Fog trench coats and dark sunglasses suddenly appeared next to me at the train station this morning. Because of the station escalators being out of order, I’d just trudged three flights upstairs and was breathing just a little hard.

“Hi, my name is Marsha. My company, Polls-R-Us, was hired by the Transit Company to take a special poll of today’s riders. Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions? We’d like to get your opinion.”

“Huh!?”

“My name is Marsha…”

“I’m sorry. You startled me. You want my opinion?”

“Yes sir”

“My opinion? You sure about this? My opinion…you want?”

“Yes sir”

“Jeez…I need to see some I.D.”

“Sure, Mister,” she said while handing me a Polls-R-Us ID card, “but why”?”

“Well, first, I can’t remember the last time anybody asked me for my opinion on anything…not even on what I wanted for dinner.  You might be up to something. Secondly, no one born in the last twenty-five years has been given a simple two syllable, easy to pronounce name like ‘Marsha.’ You sure that your real name is not really ‘LaQuinteishella’ or maybe ‘Moonbeam’ or somethin’? Is there something that you are trying to hide? You’re sure you’re not one of those people from overseas where they’ve outsourced all of our jobs and that you’re just pretending your name is Marsha? They do that kind of thing you know. I saw it on Sixty Minutes.”

I looked over her laminated company identification card. “See, it says right here that your name is M-A-R-H-C-Y-Z-E.”

“Yes, but it’s pronounced, ‘Marsha.'”

“OK, if you say so…but first, pinch me. Right here…on my arm.”

“Sir …this is kind of irregular. No one has ever asked me to do that before, but OK.”

“Yeoweee! Damn! That hurts, Marsha-or-whatever-your-real-name-is. But I guess that means that I’m not dreamin’ this.”

At that time, I reached into my wallet.

“OK, Marsha-or-whatever-your-real-name-is, let’s do this. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. I am ready for you. But please be gentle. This is my very first time. I’ve got it all written down here on this paper that I’ve been keeping especially for this occasion.” (I unfolded the sheet of paper that I’d been carrying in my wallet for a very long time. I’d carried it in much the same way that many high school boys of my day had carried a single condom in their billfolds just in case they might “get lucky.” You rarely did “get lucky,” of course, but just in case, you were prepared.) “By the way, Marsha-or-whatever-your-real name-is, I always knew that someday you people would call.  OK, here goes: One, I voted for the president. Two, I still approve of the job that he’s doing. Three, I think that the global climate is changing. Four, I believe in the Public Option. Five, I think that Sarah Palin is…”

“That’s not the kind of thing that I want to know,” Marsha-or-whatever-her-real-name-was interrupted.

“But you said that you were taking a …”

“It’s not that kind of poll. We just want to ask some questions about how we can improve our service.”

“Jeez…but I’ve been waiting all of my life to…”

“Sorry to disappoint you. It might be somebody else at the company that does ‘em. Our department does consumer polls.”

“So they DO exist.”

“They,” she asked?

“Political pollsters, I mean!  It says ‘polls of all kinds’ right here on your card…”

“Well, I’ve never really seen the political guys…”

About that time, the Northbound train arrived, and Marsha-or-whatever-her-real-name-was hurriedly stepped aboard, leaving me on the platform.

“But…the political pollsters, I mean. At least they are at your company, right, Marsha?  Right? Marsha?” And the doors began to close on the Northbound Line to North Springs,

“Chile please!” She’d mouthed the words back to me through the train car window, as the Northbound pulled out of the station. Those were words that females of every race, creed, color, religion and stripe used when talking to males and children whenever they’d grown impatient with some male. The words were tantamount to saying, “Don’t press the issue, fella, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Continuing that line of questioning will get you absolutely nowhere with me.”

I waved to Marsha-or-whatever-her-name-was, put my answer sheet back in my wallet and thought about my close encounter with the woman from Polls-R-Us and now wondered if maybe somewhere, somehow political pollsters really do exist. I am beginning to think maybe “not.”  Once again.

Epilogue: I never did tell Marsha-or-whatever-her-name-really-was how the transit company could improve their service. Hell, I’d settle for them just fixing the escalators.

© Copyright 2010   Will Cantrell

###
Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.